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The South African Football Player’s Union (SAFPU) is saddened by the news of an accident that claimed the lives of four Polokwane City players and left seven critically injured. The union urges clubs to guarantee the players’ safety when travelling to and from matches.

 

On Sunday, strikers Khomotso Mpakatesane, Moeketsi Nthete, Mojalefa Mphuthi and winger Koketso Takalo all died when the bus they were travelling in was hit by a car, allegedly driven by a drunk driver neglecting a red traffic light.

 

The players from Polokwane City - a second-tier side – were reportedly travelling to a post-match meeting after a 1-1 draw with Atlie FC (from Benoni). There were 22 passengers on the bus, 19 of them players.

 

FIFPro, the voice of all professional football players worldwide, wants to express its sympathy with the players, their families, friends and relatives.

 

‘As soon as we could, we took to Polokwane to convey our deepest condolences to the team and the players’, the South African players’ union SAFPU reacted in a statement. ‘We release this statement with clarity that our task as SAFPU is far much bigger than issues of salaries for our members. These players are sons, brothers and bread winners whose careers have been cut short. May their gallant soul rest in peace.’

 

‘We will push that the circumstances regarding this accident be fully investigated. Whoever is responsible through negligence should face the wrath of the law. We will further engage with the leagues and the team to ensure that benefits due to these players as employees are provided to their families without any hassles.’ 

 

The accident happens only three weeks after former professional football player and South Africa national team assistant-coach Thomas Madigage lost his life in a traffic accident. ‘This happens in this Decade of Road Safety of the United Nations which South Africa is a signatory of. Having said that, we would like to applaud the ongoing efforts by the Ministry and Department of Transport at National and Provincial level to promote behavior change by the drivers and road users. With a positive and responsible attitude towards usage of the roads, we will all be safer.’

 

‘The death of these players brings to a sharp attention the need for proper working conditions to be put in place for all football players. Travelling is an inevitable part of the working conditions the players are faced with as they travel from place to place. (…) Team owners cannot risk the lives and health of the players by introducing cost-cutting measures when it comes to transportation between matches. That will endanger the players’ lives.’ 

 

SAFPU refers to the travelling conditions that many players face in South Africa. For example: on October 31st, FC Cape Town played an away match at Roses United from Botshabelo, 1,000 kilometers away from Cape Town. They drove by bus. ‘It cannot be correct that players will travel from Cape Town to Botshabelo, play a soccer match and return by ground travel back to Cape Town. They were back on the road immediately after the game. Whilst we understand that finances are tough, teams cannot risk the lives of players in pursuit of profit.’

 

‘Accidents do happen, but measures should be put in place to avoid them. Long distance travel not only affects the performance of the players but of the drivers as well, it is even worse when the mode of transport being used is sub-standard. We will call upon both leagues (the Premier Soccer League and National First Division) to regulate the mode of transportation and accommodation used to ferry teams between matches and ensure that the safety of players comes first.’